NHB Modern Plays

Plays

All Our Children  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Unwin's debut play All Our Children explores the fate of disabled children in Nazi Germany, examining the moral dilemma facing those in whose care they were placed. It was first produced by Tara Finney Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre, and was first performed at Jermyn Street Theatre, London, on 26 April 2017.

The play is set in January 1941, in the Winkelheim Clinic near Cologne, run by paediatrician Victor Franz. Having created the clinic in peacetime to help sick children, Victor is now being forced to use it to dispatch severely disabled people to their deaths. His own growing qualms about the process are brutally countered by a young SS officer, Eric, who has been installed as his deputy. In the course of the play's action, Victor is forced to defend himself against two visitors: a mother, Elizabetta, anxious about the fate of her son; and the historical figure of Bishop von Galen, who, as in life, challenges both the practice and the philosophy of the extermination of the supposedly 'unproductive citizens'.

In a note in the published script, Stephen Unwin writes: 'All Our Children is very much a work of fiction. There is no evidence that von Galen had a meeting of the kind that I have dramatised (though he did talk with senior figures in the SS) nor do we know of a doctor involved in the programme having qualms about what he was doing. What’s clear, however, is that his intervention raised the most profound questions about the innate value of the human being, regardless of cost or productivity, and his voice, for all its stubborn absolutism, deserves to be heard.'

The premiere production was directed by Stephen Unwin and designed by Simon Higlett. It was performed by Edward Franklin, Rebecca Johnson, Lucy Speed, Colin Tierney (as Victor) and David Yelland (as Bishop von Galen).

All the Little Lights

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jane Upton's play All the Little Lights is a drama about the sexual exploitation of young girls who have fallen through the system. It was produced by Fifth Word and Nottingham Playhouse, and first performed at Nottingham Playhouse, on 20 October 2015, later touring the UK in 2017. The play was the joint winner of the George Devine Award for most promising playwright in 2016.

The play is set 'somewhere on the outskirts of an urban sprawl, high up overlooking houses, next to a railway line.' Joanne (age 16) is throwing an impromptu birthday party for her friend Lisa (15), who has recently been taken into foster care and has reluctantly agreed to come along. Joanne has brought her new sidekick, Amy (12), promising to introduce her to TJ, an older man from the local chip shop. As the three young women camp out near the railway line, they talk about anything but the traumatic experiences Joanne and Lisa have been through. They also play games, from a version of chicken when they hear the trains approaching, to imagining who lives in the ‘little lights’ that they can see in the distance. But the horror of what has happened to them in the past, and what might yet happen to Amy, gradually emerges.

The original production was directed by Laura Ford and designed by Max Dorey. It was performed by Esther-Grace Button as Amy, Sarah Hoare as Lisa and Tessie Orange-Turner as Joanne.

Angel  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's Angel is a dramatic monologue for a female performer, inspired by the true story of Rehana, the 'Angel of Kobane', a Kurdish fighter who became a symbol of resistance against Islamic State. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes The Collector and Echoes.

Angel was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 3 August 2016 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning a Fringe First award.

The story is narrated by Rehana, the 'Angel', who, according to a note in the script, 'tells her autobiographical story directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. The action takes place in Syria, in 2014. The town of Kobane is under siege by ISIS, who, having steam-rollered through Iraq, are expecting to take the town easily. But the citizens have found a heroine: a crackshot sniper with a hundred kills to her name. And she appears indestructible. She's the legendary Angel of Kobane.

The premiere production was directed by Michael Cabot and performed by Filipa Bragança. In the subsequent tour of Australia (beginning at Mittagong Playhouse on 7 February 2017), Rehana was played by Avital Lvova.

Anna Karenina (adapt. Edmundson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, is a meditation on the nature of love. It was first performed by Shared Experience at the Theatre Royal, Winchester, on 30 January 1992 at the start of a nationwide tour.

Married to a provincial governor, the punctilious Alexei Karenin, Anna revolts against her life of compromise when she meets the charming officer Count Vronsky. She embarks on a scandalous affair, which completely destroys her family life and brings her to the brink of destruction. Interspersed with Anna’s tragic downfall is the story of Levin, an idealistic landowner striving to find meaning in his life – a character often seen as a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself. Edmundson's adaptation illuminates the story's grand pattern: how the adulterous Anna travels towards disintegration and death, while the young landowner, Levin, travels toward maturity and a sense of wholeness.

Edmundson frames the action of Tolstoy’s novel within an imagined dialogue between Levin and Anna. She brings Anna and Levin together in the opening scene: 'This is my story,' says Anna. 'It seems it is mine too,' replies Levin, and for the remainder of the play scenes are set and emotions summarised through the imaginary exchange of their confidences. The device allows Edmundson to distil the novel down to a carefully curated selection of episodes; she is able to translate almost a thousand pages, and a cast of nearly as many, into an intimate chamber drama.

In an author's note in the published text, Edmundson explains her decision not to cut the Levin strand of the novel, as many adaptations do: 'Without Levin, Anna Karenina is a love story, extraordinary and dark, but essentially a love story. With Levin it becomes something great.'

The Shared Experience production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Lucy Weller. The cast was Annabelle Apsion, Katherine Barker, Tilly Blackwood, Gregory Floy, Max Gold, Richard Hope, Nigel Lindsay and Pooky Quesnel. The production then toured to Cardiff, Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Taunton, Salisbury, and finally to the Tricycle Theatre, London, where it opened on 10 March 1992.

The play was revived at the Arcola Theatre, London, in 2011 by The Piano Removal Company, directed by Max Webster.

Anne Boleyn

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's Anne Boleyn is a dramatisation of the life and legacy of the notorious second wife of Henry VIII. It was first performed at Shakespeare's Globe, London, on 24 July 2010.

King James I, rummaging through the dead Queen Elizabeth’s possessions upon coming to the throne in 1603, finds alarming evidence that Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, was a religious conspirator in love with Henry VIII but also with the most dangerous ideas of her day. Anne comes alive for him as a brilliant but reckless young woman confident in her sexuality, whose marriage and death transformed England forever. The potent love between Anne and Henry is so alive and electric that it cannot be contained in the stultifying social mores of the time, but is viewed with alarm by those at Court who fear the threat it poses to their position and influence.

The premiere at Shakespeare's Globe was directed by John Dove, with Miranda Raison as Anne Boleyn, James Garnon as King James and Anthony Howell as King Henry. It was well received by the critics, with the Daily Mail (not generally favourable to Left-leaning playwrights) commenting 'It takes a big, generous spirit to fill the Globe, and in this Brenton follows Shakespeare – not just with asides and soliloquies, but with a large colourful canvas.' The play was named Best New Play at the Whatsonstage.com Awards in 2011.

Anne Boleyn was revived at the Globe in 2011 and toured regionally in 2012 in a joint production between Shakespeare’s Globe and English Touring Theatre.

Antigone (trans. McCafferty)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's version of Sophocles’ Antigone is a muscular take on the ancient Greek tragedy that offers a reflection on the nature of power, democracy and human rights. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions at the Waterfront Studio Hall, Belfast, in October 2008 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival.

The play takes place in a huge hall within the palace of Creon, the new ruler of Thebes. The palace is in ruins after battle and, although the war has ended, with peace comes conflict. Antigone’s brother Polyneices lies on the battlefield where he fell, his burial outlawed by Creon. Antigone is determined to overrule him and attempts to persuade her sister, Ismene, to join her in rebellion against the king, but to no avail. When Creon discovers that Antigone has disobeyed him and buried her brother, she is captured, a decision that triggers a catastrophic chain reaction resulting in the double suicide of his son Haemon and wife Eurydice.

Sophocles’ tragedy has a powerful resonance in post-conflict Northern Ireland and this version is set entirely within the walls of a palace destroyed by war. Written in his distinctive style, McCafferty highlights the human frailties of these mythic characters by drawing attention to the family saga element of the story.

The Prime Cut Productions premiere was directed by Owen McCafferty and designed by Lorna Ritchie. It was performed by Walter McMonagle, Katy Ducker (as Antigone), Rosie McClelland, Ian McElhinney, Conor MacNeill, Paul Mallon, Harry Towb, Eoin McCafferty, Tom Loane, Chris Corrigan, Julia Dearden, Cat Barter, Barry Etherson and Matt Faris.

Apologia

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alexi Kaye Campbell's second play, Apologia presents a disastrous family reunion as the occasion for a critical look at what has happened to 60s idealists and their children. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 17 June 2009.

Kristin Miller is an eminent and successful art historian in her sixties. As a young mother she followed her politics and vocation, storming Parisian barricades and moving to Florence. Now she has written a book about her life – a book that fails to mention her two children, Peter and Simon. So when her sons and their partners, Trudi and Claire, gather at Kristin's cottage in the countryside to celebrate her birthday, she finds herself ambushed by their very different versions of the past. Over the course of the evening, everyone must confront the cost of Kristin’s commitment to her passions.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Josie Rourke with Paolo Dionisotti as Kristin, Tom Beard as Peter, John Light as Simon, Sarah Goldberg as Trudi, Nina Sosanya as Claire and Philip Voss as Hugh, an old friend of Kristin's.

The play was well received by the critics, with several remarking on how it built on the promise of Campbell's previous play, The Pride. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph wrote that Campbell was 'fast emerging as a dramatist of rare distinction', while Henry Hitchings in The Evening Standard concluded that the play 'confirms his standing as a fresh and sensitive voice'.

Arabian Nights

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Dominic Cooke's Arabian Nights is an inventive retelling of the classic tales. It was first performed at the Young Vic, London, on 16 November 1998.

It is wedding night in the palace of King Shahrayar. By morning, the new Queen Shahrazad is to be put to death like all the young brides before her. But she has one gift that could save her – the gift of storytelling. With her mischievous imagination, the young Queen spins her dazzling array of tales and characters, bringing them to life before the king: Ali Baba, Es-Sindibad the Sailor, Princess Parizade, adventurers in strange and magical worlds populated by giant beasts, talking birds, devilish ghouls and crafty thieves.

The six stories from the original collections featured in this version are: The Story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Story of the Little Beggar, The Story of Es-Sindibad the Sailor, How Abu Hassan Broke Wind, The Story of the Wife Who Wouldn’t Eat and The Story of the Envious Sisters. The framing story of Queen Shahrazad is retained throughout.

The Young Vic premiere was directed by Dominic Cooke. The play was revived, in a revised version, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 5 December 2009, also directed by Dominic Cooke, designed by Georgia McGuinness and with music by Gary Yershon.

Arlington

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's play Arlington (subtitled 'A Love Story') is a story of love and oppression set in a dystopian world of entrapment, isolation and surveillance. It was first performed at Leisureland, Salthill, Galway, on 11 July 2016, as part of the 2016 Galway International Arts Festival.

The play is set in a 'realistic waiting room – of no fixed time or place'. Isla, a young woman, is trapped here, waiting for her number to be called on a prominent LED number display screen. Her only human contact is with a Young Man who sits in an adjacent control room operating the cameras that keep her under constant surveillance and listening to the stories she invents about the outside world. Both characters are victims of a tyrannical system, as is the Young Woman who, in a long, wordless, central section, dances her way to her own death. The play, however, concludes on a note that suggests that the human spirit can withstand oppression.

The Galway premiere was directed by Walsh with choreography by Emma Martin, music by Teho Teardo and designs by Jamie Vartan. It was performed by Charlie Murphy as Isla, Hugh O’Conor as the Young Man and Oona Doherty as the Young Woman, with additional voicework by Eanna Breathnach, Olwen Fouéré, Helen Norton and Stephen Rea.

Arthur & George

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Arthur & George is a stage play based on Julian Barnes’ Booker Prize-nominated novel of the same name (first published in 2005), itself based on a real-life case in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes) found himself playing detective. The play takes the form of a detective thriller that raises questions about guilt and innocence, identity, nationality and race. It was first performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 19 March 2010 in a coproduction with Nottingham Playhouse.

In 1903, Birmingham solicitor George Edalji was found guilty of a series of brutal attacks on farm animals, known as the Great Wyrley Outrages. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labour. Desperate to prove his innocence, he recruited Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes, to help solve his mysterious case and win him a pardon.

Edgar restructures Barnes's story. He starts with a meeting between Conan Doyle and Edalji that took place after the latter's prison sentence had been commuted, although his conviction remained intact. Through flashbacks, we learn the details of the case: how Edalji, his Parsee-born vicar father and his Scottish mother had been subjected to a campaign of sustained intimidation. We also learn how the sober, industrious Edalji had been accused of being part of the Great Wyrley gang that brutalised local cattle, and of being the source of the poison-pen letters to his own family. Conan Doyle determines to clear Edalji's name and, assuming the mantle of Sherlock Holmes, uncover the true culprits.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production was directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and designed by Ruari Murchison, with Adrian Lukis as Arthur and Chris Nayak as George. Other members of the cast were Richard Attlee, William Beck, Simon Coates, Daniel Crowder, Kirsty Hoiles and Anneika Rose.

The production subsequently transferred to Nottingham Playhouse, with performances there from 22 April 2010.

Nick Hern Books is one of the UK’s leading specialist performing arts publishers, with a vast collection of plays, screenplays and theatre books in their catalogue. They also license most of their plays for amateur performance.